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The Startling Story
From the fairytales of the Brothers Grimm, to Victorian-era moralistic fables, to the twisted works of Roald Dahl, there is a long tradition in children's literature of absurdly awful things happening to perfectly nice children. The eleven books written and narrated by the mysterious Lemony Snicket — whom some accuse of being the same person as 34-year-old author Daniel Handler — take that tradition to new heights.. .and drop it off a cliff.

In a perplexing sign of the state of children and evil Counts today. Mr. Snicket's novels have won widespread critical praise and popular acclaim. They were the first books to knock the Harry Potter series off the top of the New York Times children's bestseller list, and since then, the books in the series have been on that list for more than 600 weeks combined. With rave reviews from respected publications including the New York Times, Entertainment Week/v and U.S. News and World Report, Mr. Snicket's books have sold more than 27 million copies worldwide in spite of the author's repeated pleas to "read something else!”

Now, a major motion picture adaptation directed by Brad Silberling and featuring a distressingly talented cast that includes Jim Carrey and Meryl Streep is darkening theaters. The film employs the same subversive humor, peril, whimsy, imagination, heartfelt emotion, quirky style and man-eating leeches that make Mr. Snicket's books so unique.

"I begged them not to do it. I begged them not to get a good director. I begged them not to cast anyone talented. I begged them not to base the movie on any of my books, and they chose three of them!” exclaims Mr. Snicket, speaking from an undisclosed hole in the ground or luxury mansion. "My last hope is that hordes of volunteers will read this quote, buy every movie ticket available, and then not go see the film.”

"Lemony Snicket is one of the most original voices out there,” says Mr. Carrey, ignoring Mr. Snicket's feelings entirely. "His demented little journey into these kids' lives is both wonderful and frightening.”

Ms. Streep, whose daughter was "wild about the project,” couldn't pass up the opportunity to be in the film. "What's so appealing about the story is that it shows how independent kids can be,” observes Ms. Streep. "It plays out their fantasies of being completely responsible for themselves, and in the case of the Baudelaire children, being smarter than any adult in the mom.” The actress did not comment, however, on the fact that one of the children in the film is forced to dress as a camel, albeit briefly.

Actor Jude Law, who voices Lemony Snicket, learned about Mr. Snicket's books when his son excitedly brought one of them home from school, despite the fact that no one appeared to be chasing him.

"The Lemony Snicket books attract the attention of both children and their parents in a very unique way,” observes Mr. Law, who says that his narrator, though faceless, has an emotional attachment to the children and watches them from afar. "Unlike most literature aimed at young people, this series has a rather sinister quality to it. which people of all ages seem to find intriguing.”

Sinister is a word which here probably means "Count Olaf,” a terrible villain and a worse actor played by Mr. Carrey. Time and again, the children are forced to rely on their own keen intelligence and unique talents to escape Olaf's clutches. Some believe Count Olaf is a source of great comic relief. Others believe he smells odd and has only one eyebrow. Still others think he is one of the most frightening movie villains since Joan Crawford.

To director Brad Silberling, the books give children credit for having a sense of humor, and they don't play don to anyone. He says that's how he approached directing the film. "The books are rebellious; they take chances, and so does the movie.” It should be noted, however, that Mr. Silberling is not t

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